21 March 2005

forty years ago today, the march from selma to montgomery began. the times has kindly reprinted its entire front-page story from the following day.

one thing is evident to me as i read this story: it could not be written this way this year. that is not just -- and in fact not primarily -- because it uses a lot of offensive language. rather, think about the way that the times pussyfoots around dissent today. it wouldn't dream of covering an anti-war protest march, or a march for reproductive rights or gay rights or what have you, without a scrupulous bow-and-scrape to the powers that be. the linked article presents the march as historic and successful; it quotes whole paragraphs from dr. king's speech. granted, it also fails to fully elaborate the savagery of the attacks that ended previous attempts to march from selma to montgomery -- but a minority of conservative counterprotesters don't make up the majority of the story. the writing is -- surprise! -- accurate.

i guarantee you that if an analogous piece were published in the times today about some similarly contentious issue, the result would be a veritable firestorm of criticism regarding the "liberal media." truthfully, though, i don't think that's a likely outcome: today, such an article would never get published in the first place.